The greatest source of conflict in marriage is MONEY-and it's what couples discuss the least!
Money. It's what couples have the most trouble negotiating and the topic they avoid the most unless they are arguing about it. People who are otherwise highly compatible are often very different in their attitudes about money and their styles for saving and spending. And often people don't discovery these differences until very late in the game.
MONEY AND COURTSHIP
People notoriously avoid discussions about money early in their relationships. Of course, early on it would be pretty rude to ask someone, how much money do you make, how much do you have in savings or whether or not the other person has a history of bankruptcy. People who are dating and trying to make a good impression often spend more than they can afford buying presents, expensive dinners or better clothes than they should. This doesn't mean these questions should be avoided indefinitely.
Money problems are very personal. We talk about our sex life and sexual preferences before we talk about any difficulty we have with money. It is easy to avoid these topics early on. If we are very excited about a new person it is also common to overlook warning signs or make excuses when we see things that should be raising alarms for us.
I have even talked to couples on the brink of marriage or moving in together who have not thoroughly explored these topics. Have you seen a pay stub, a tax return, a credit card bill? Have you discussed a budget or set up a system for making decisions? Very often the answer is no!
MANAGING MONEY WHEN ONE PERSON EARNS MORE
There are a lot of potential pitfalls here. The person with the higher salary may feel they can make financial decisions wiithout consulting the other person. There is some legitimacy to that notion but boundaries must be drawn so that the overall welfare of the couple or family is always a priority, ALL areas of a relationship require respect so if the person making more money develops a sense of entitlement and disrespects the feelings and needs of the other person, that relationship will be in trouble.
Another problem develops when one person earns a great deal more and the non-earning partner abdicates all financial responsibility. I meet so many spouses who know NOTHING about the family finances and then are shocked when their partner gets in to trouble or when checks bounce or bills are late.
With the recession many previously successful breadwinners were too ashamed to let their partner know that things weren't going well financially and no spending changes were made leaving these households in even greater distress. A good working relationship means a working financial relationship as well.
EQUAL EARNERS, EQUAL DECISIONS?
It's not necessarily smooth sailing when both partners earn sufficient money. Decision making must still be negotiated. It doesn't work to say, "I earned it, I can spend it!" Joint priorities must be established and vital needs addressed first. Both parts of a couple need to know the cost of basic bills and how much is left over for savings or personal expenses. These decisions should be made together but far too often are not discussed thoroughly leading to conflict and resentment. Most people do not draw up budgets or study in an effective way their spending habits and set long term financial goals. Families need to develop strategies to save for emergencies, college, travel, major household repairs or vacations.
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS
Far too many people are uncomfortable thinking about money or planning how to use it. I often hear, "I let her pay all the bills...he's in charge of the accountant and taxes...we make good money, I let him buy whenever he wants." These attitudes can lead to serious (and unnecessary stress) when a financial crisis arises.
Poor financial cooperation can ruin a relationship that is otherwise strong. And when marriages do break up a lack of awareness about family finances can lead to disaster. Forensic detectives have a booming business but for divorcing couple, hiring one often represents too little knowledge way too late.
TACKLING THE FINANCES TOGETHER
One of the greatest things you can do for your relationship is to discuss money decisions and issues TOGETHER. Yes, it can be difficult but making joint decisions, reviewing them together and modifying expenses to meet the needs of the family helps to keep your family strong and your relationship secure.